Summer is grilling season! If you haven't grilled before, these tips and hints will help you grill safely with the best, juiciest, most savory results.
Let's Get Started!
- The grill should be on a heatproof surface well away from buildings, brush and overhanging trees. Never grill inside your home, even in an open garage.
- Inspect your grill before you start, making sure the racks are clean, the cover fits snugly, and there are no cracks or holes in the grill pan.
- Start with a clean grill, especially if it's the first time you are grilling this season. Ash left over from cooking creates lye when mixed with water, which can rust the grill pan. You do need an ash layer for the best heat retention, but old ash isn't doing your grill any good.
- Follow manufacturer's instructions for lighting gas or charcoal grills.
- A charcoal fire takes 30-45 minutes to reach the proper cooking heat after you light it. You can tell when the coals are at proper cooking temperature because gray ash will form evenly over the briquettes.
Charcoal grilling presents quite a challenge to the grillmaster. (That's you!) But learning about the type of charcoal to purchase, how many briquettes to light, the arrangement and cooking times is fun! Here are some tips.
- The number of briquettes you use depends on the size of your gill, the amount of food you will be cooking, weather conditions and cooking time.
- As a general rule, plan on using about 30 briquettes to cook 1 pound of meat. A five-pound bag contains 75 to 90 briquettes. Make sure you have enough briquettes to cover the grill pan in a single layer, extending about 2-3" beyond the area of the food on the grill. First place the briquettes in the grill pan to check for quantity, then stack them for lighting or remove to place in a chimney starter.
- When the weather is cold or windy, you will need more briquettes to reach an ideal cooking temperature. More about that later. To light charcoal with the pyramid method, stack the charcoal into a rough pyramid shape. Soak the charcoal with at least 1/2 cup of lighter fluid (never use gasoline!!!). Wait a few minutes to let the chemicals soak into the briquettes, then light the charcoal with a long handled match or fire starter. As the coals begin to burn and ash forms, arrange them with long handled tons into a single layer. Don't squirt lighter fluid onto hot coals, since the fluid could catch on fire and burn back up to your hand.
- I really like using a chimney starter. It looks like a coffee can with a handle, divided into two compartments by a metal disc. It lets you get a really good fire going with no chemicals.
- Place crumpled newspapers in the bottom portion of the starter
- Remove the rack from the grill and place the chimney starter in the bottom.
- Fill the top half of the starter with charcoal.
- Then light the newsletter through holes in the bottom of the starter. The fire will draw up through the starter, lighting the charcoal.
- Leave the chimney starter where it is, and in about 20-30 minutes the coals will be ready.
- With a heavy, long-sleeved oven mitt, carefully empty the coals into the grill pan.
- Arrange the coals into an even layer with long tongs.
- Electric starters are fun and easy to use. They are plug-in heating elements that also start the fire with no chemicals. Place the electric starter in the grill pan and stack the charcoal briquettes over it in a pyramid shape. Plug in the starter, making sure you are using a heavy-duty extension cord. Ash will begin to form on the coals after 8-10 minutes. Then unplug the starter, pull it out with tongs and set aside on a heatproof surface. Then arrange the briquettes with tongs into an even layer.
Gas grills use lava rocks, which come with the grill. The rocks are heated by the gas flame and cook like charcoal.
- Keeping the rocks clean is about the only task you'll have with a gas grill. If there is a buildup of grease on the rocks you will have flare-ups during cooking which can burn the food. Follow the manufacturer's instructions for cleaning or replacing the lava rocks.
- A good habit to develop is to turn the burner to high for five minutes after you're finished cooking to help burn off grease and other drippings.
- Occasionally rearrange and turn the lava rocks so heating and cleaning is more even.
- Replace the lava rocks when they don't look clean, and start to break apart. Do not stack lava racks. They should be only one layer deep on the grate.
One tool you should have is a hinged grill basket, for cooking delicate cuts of fish, fruits, and vegetables.
On the next pages you'll find instructions for maintaining temperature, about indirect and direct heat cooking, how to build a two-level fire, and some great recipes for your grilling adventures.